Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fleet 16 Finch update

By B. Reid

The summer of 2011 for the Vintage Wings Fleet Finch was a great success. After being trucked out to Manitoba to join the Yellow Wings tour, it flew down to Oshkosh and back to Ontario visiting many former BCATP airports.

But some serious restoration work was done last winter in order to get it ready to visit its old stomping grounds. The entire 28 foot long upper wing was completely rebuilt along with one of the lower wings. This included splicing together a new spar and creating new ribs.

A modification has been made recently to the aircraft. When we purchased this Finch, it was operated without a generator. The aircraft is equipped with a starter and avionics. After going flying, we would recharge the battery using a three-pronged plug-in near the engine. This will no longer be necessary as a wind-driven generator has been installed on the aircraft. It is attached to the main gear leg assembly. Our Tiger Moth has a similar device.

It was always planned to overhaul its Kinner R-55 engine after the Yellow Wings tour. The engine has been removed from CF-PFF and along with our spare, has been sent to Al Ball in California for a complete overhaul.

The early version of the Finch(model 16B) had a 130 hp engine while a later version (model 16R) had a 160 hp engine. The later version appears to have been equipped for night flying as nav lights were installed. By the way, all 15 of the Portuguese Navy Fleet 16D’s ordered from the factory had 160 hp engines. Our Finch originally had a 130 horsepower Kinner and is a model 16B but in its civilian life, a 160 horsepower engine was installed.

A little engine manufacturing history. Said to be a mechanical wizard, Bert Kinner, from Iowa, started several aviation manufacturing companies in the Los Angeles area. In 1919, he founded the Kinner Airplane & Motor Company producing both aircraft and due to the very high engine costs of that era, eventually engines as well. The “Kinner 5” was successfully designed as both an affordable and reliable power plant leading to a family of 5 cylinder radial engines. In 1939, after several relocations and reorganizations, the company’s aircraft rights were sold off while the engine rights were sold to a new Kinner Motors(without Bert Kinner) which produced thousands of those 5 cylinder engines throughout the war until its own demise shortly after the conflict ended. Among the biggest users were the Fleet Finch and the Ryan PT-22.

The new wind-driven generator can be seen in the landing gear bracing. Beside it is the venturi to operate the gyro instruments. The yellow wheel covers should actually be black and hopefully will be painted that way. This aircraft had no canopy when purchased, however, Vintage Wings has obtained one from Minnesota. It is quite large with heavy rails and after refurbishment, it will be installed replacing the Stearman windshields currently on the aircraft.

The silver tubes next to the cabane struts are the four fuel lines from the single 32 US gallon tank that gravity feeds the engine. The clear tube sticking down from the upper wing by the starboard side cabane struts is the fuel quantity indicator. Note the two piece firewall as designed by Fleet. The large hole on the right side of the firewall is the exhaust for the ram air that is scooped from the aircraft starboard side and piped through the oil tank.

This picture was actually taken a year and a half ago. The 28 foot long upper wing is positioned on a truck for delivery to southern Ontario for a complete rebuild.

This is a peek inside of a Finch wing as seen prior to being rebuilt. The forward spar is plainly visible. If you want to be technical, the interior should be painted silver just like the oil cooler scoop, fuel and oil caps. You are probably wondering how the fabric is held on as there is no rib stitching in sight. The aircraft came out of the factory with the fabric screwed on using slot screws. Phillips screws were not installed on this type. Round patches with pinked edges then covered the screws which is why you may see a multitude of round patches on Finch.

This is the spare engine with cylinders removed. An engine stand was built for shipping. Ten studs are on the back of the engine for attachment to the circular engine mount that can be seen in the first two pictures. Unlike many aircraft, the engine mount is permanently fixed to the rest of the airframe and cannot be taken off.

Peering inside the Kinner R-55 engine gives a nice view of the crankshaft and its counterweights with the main bearings partially visible at top and bottom. The crankpin on the left drives the master rod. The Kinner is different than many radial engines in that it does not have a cam ring to operate the pushrods. Instead, in the crankcase are five individual sungears mounted around the crankshaft gear(on the outer side of the lower cover at bottom of photo), each of which have a concentric camshaft, each of which have two cams for its own cylinder pushrods. A protective grease coating has been put on all surfaces.

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